Julianne and I were taken out to a buffet restaurant in China a few days ago by a Chinese couple we are friends with.
Some observations about our experience there . . . with so many people inside the restaurant it was a ‘everyone for themselves’ kind of dynamic when it came to getting food at the buffet tables.
I get why this is necessary because with so many people all wanting to get the same thing at the same time (as in a particular food tray), or do the same thing at the same time (as in use the soda fountains), if you act like a Canadian (which I AM) and let someone go ahead of you if you’re unsure who go there first or who is next in line (next in line–ha, I kill me!), then you end up waiting while 20 Chinese people just go and keep on going as the-idiot-Canadian-stands-there-not-wanting-to-be-rude-and-push-in-cut-someone-off . . . I only did that ONCE, however, as I’ve now been overseas long enough to know not to, for example, hold a door open for someone in a shopping mall in Korea thus becoming/transforming in the Koreans’ minds a doorman–yes, it happened to me.
I don’t mind jockeying for position or having to cut off some little kid or polite and shy woman anymore since that seems to be the cultural norm and expectation–I do mind, however, having to fight to find a pair of tongs so that I can actually put food on my plate while going down the buffet tables. Looking around I saw that several people had just picked up the tongs off their resting plates and were using them as their own PERSONAL TONGS while the other half of us looking to load our plates had to wait for an opportunity to snatch up the tongs once a person had finished with them.
My Canadian cultural ‘DNA’ at first told me in a panicked voice that it would be rude to take a pair of tongs and use them just for myself to get food from different trays–but after standing there for what seemed like several minutes but was only one I told the voice to shut up and grabbed tongs and didn’t put them down till I’d got my plate loaded . . .
If I’d been able to I would have taken a picture at the soda fountains where it looked like a multi-body-octopus’ arms were flying in and out and all around the nozzles with glasses being held by different people trying to fill them up . . .
Anyways, the food was really good, and for Julianne and I the general experience was the closest we’ve had to being in a ‘western style’ food and service environment in China.